There are mountain goats, dairy goats and meat goats. And then there are scapegoats.
One that is made to bear the blame of others, scapegoats typically live in close proximity to heated debates. Their natural habitat includes shouting, controversy and altercation. They can be easily found with a pointed, human finger.
In the argument over climate change, prominent scapegoats have included the world’s largest energy companies. That’s not surprising, since energy production, distribution and consumption all result in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
There are other factors which likely make large energy companies juicy targets for scapegoating. For one, these firms are generally profitable, as energy production is a good business to be in.
For another, most people’s direct interaction with an energy company involves the “grudge purchase” of gasoline or diesel to keep their vehicles running – a transaction that’s about as much fun as standing in the cold and staring at strangers ever is.
Organizations singled out
The scapegoating effort was dialed up a notch recently, when a study heralded by fossil fuel critics cited the world’s largest oil and gas companies among 90 organizations responsible for two-thirds of climate change. Suncor made the list, as did companies from the coal and cement industries.
In world of seven billion people, can climate change really be blamed on 90 companies?
It appears not.
In the study, all GHG emissions resulting from the consumption of the companies’ energy products by consumers and businesses have been erroneously attributed to the companies themselves.
As we’ve explored in previous OSQARs, 70–80 per cent of GHG emissions occur from combusting fossil fuels in our planes, trains and automobiles. In fact, virtually all modern human activity, from mobility to agriculture to heating our homes, results in GHG emissions.
Parody news site The Onion gets this. It recently reported that “climate change is caused by seven billion key individuals.”
A social problem
Scapegoating the world’s energy companies for climate change is simplistic and convenient.
Climate change is a social problem and is best addressed by all of society. Businesses, governments and consumers need to work together to find solutions.
And working together, rather than scapegoating, will get us closer to finding those solutions.